Tag Archive | Energy

Optimal Oscillation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the optimal oscillation pattern for maintaining peak energy throughout the day?”

“I’ve been experimenting a lot with it.

I metaphorically (and aesthetically) view it as a nested oscillation: oscillation within oscillation within oscillation.

The big oscillation is the circadian rhythm pattern, our natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Sleep is by far the most important variable for managing energy and it’s worth optimizing to perfection.

The medium oscillation is the ultradian rhythm pattern. Our capacity to engage in deep work depends on our capacity to concentrate – to maintain focused attention. This is energy-intensive, and cannot be maintained for longer than 90-120 minutes. This is the optimal duration of a work-block. After every work-block, I take a medium or big break. It is during these breaks when I go for my Parkour walk [<link; medium read]. 

The small oscillation is the pomodoro pattern, which for me is a 30 minute cycle followed by a 10-minute break. During the break, I reflect on the previous time-block and have a consistent movement snack [<link; medium read].

I take my small breaks religiously. They provide feedback. Whenever I miss a break is a sign that I need more rest.”

“When you’re doing creative work, does it not take you out of Flow to take a break every 30 minutes?”

“Creativity is itself an oscillation. Creative insights usually happen during the off-time.

The skill you’re practicing is getting into Flow as fast as possible.”


Quality Oscillation

To turn it on, learn to turn it off. (Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning)

Relaxation is essential for the full expression of power. (George Leonard, Mastery)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

The quality of the on depends on the quality of the off.

“What does quality oscillation look like?”

100% On / 100% Off.

That means two things:

Total Disengagement (Letting Go)
Total Relaxation (Breathing, Centering, Letting Go, De-Tensing)

“Like a reboot?”

“Or a reset [<link; medium read].”

On Burpees and Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I get to 100 burpees every day like Brian Johnson does?”

“Understand that it’s as much mental as it is physical. You have to make it meaningful.

Deeply internalize that Energy is your most important resource. It’s an enabler for everything you do. Movement is one essential aspect of Energy – and your overall well-being –, next to Rest/Recovery and Nutrition.

The most important systems of personal meaning are your Identity and your Values. You have to integrate Movement into both of these systems.

Embrace your identity of Mover / Athlete.
Embrace Movement as one of your primary Values.

In strategic terms, do them in small sets, and spread them out throughout the day. To ensure consistency, have a system for it.”

“What does your system look like?

“I use the following terminology:

Micro-Unit = 1 burpee (the floor)
Unit = 5 burpees
Macro-Unit = 2 x Unit = 10 burpees (the ceiling)

I like multiples of 5 because they’re easier to count. 

The key to consistency, I found, is connecting the burpee habit with other activities.

More specifically, with my work time. I do 3 units (3 x 5) during every work hour: one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end. If for any reason I skip one, I do a macro-unit (10) next time.

The beauty of this system is that, once it becomes a habit, you don’t need to track your overall daily progress. You know that if you’ve worked 6 hours, you’ve done 90 burpees.”

“What if I can barely do 5 burpees? How can I build up to it?”

To build up to it, adjust the unit. 

Start with the micro-unit – 1 burpee. This is the habit-seed [<medium; short read]. 
Stay at 1 burpee until it feels easy, then add another one. This becomes your new unit.

Whenever the unit feels easy, add another rep.

Whenever you feel tired during the day and feel you can no longer sustain the volume, gradually scale down the unit for the day, all the way to the micro-unit if need be. It’s more important to maintain the habit – three units per hour, however small the unit – than to reach 100.

Focus on Quality. (Perfect/Quality Reps

Think of every burpee session as a micro meditation. Start every single one by taking a deep breath and connecting with yourself (Centering). 

In terms of feedback, use sound and markings on the floor to assess quality. The less sound you make – this is called Stealth in Parkour –, and the more precise your hand and foot placement, the better the quality of the rep.

You can also add Variety from time to time and experiment with various types of burpees.”

Active Recovery

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you want to do during breaks?”

“Steven Kotler makes a great distinction between passive and active recovery

Passive recovery means recovering energy by not doing anything.
Active recovery means doing specific activities that better help you recover energy.

Both help you recover energy; the latter is more efficient at it.

In Steven’s system, active recovery has two components, what he calls a ‘mental shift‘, and a ‘physiological shift‘.

Mental shift means state management. In practical terms that may mean one or more micro-moments of positivity [<link; short read], such as smiling and connecting with your highest aspirations.

Physiological shift means breathing and movement. In practical terms that may mean a 5-minute moving meditation, and/or a walk.

To answer your question, during breaks I want to 
Center (mental shift), 
Reflect on the previous time-block (Learning Cycle), and
Move (physiological shift).”

“What if you centered and reflected while moving?


“I like the idea.”

The most important life resources

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What are the most important resources?

I’m thinking, time and energy.

Time because it’s non-renewable.
Energy because it’s an enabler, it gives you the capacity to make use of time.

What if you do have time and energy but you’re in an unresourceful state?

State is also an enabler. I guess we can think of it as a resource as well.

What about meaning?

Energy and state give you the capacity to make use of time.
Meaning makes you want to make use of time to the fullest.

It can also make you not want to make use time to the fullest.

All resources take skill to manage properly.

On Peak Performance 2

In mental, creative work one can do his best only for two hours at a time on any one subject. But he can work another two hours on another subject with equal freshness. (Walter Russell)

Walter Russell sometimes worked two hours a day on five different creations, thus living five lives at a time.

(Glenn Clark, The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I find that quote about Walter Russell (one of my Heroes) deeply inspiring. The idea of working in 2-hour blocks on 5 different subjects, thus ‘living five lives at the same time’.

It powerfully resonated with me in the moment when I read Glenn Clark’s book about Russell, but then I forgot about it. Recently however, while reading Jim Kwik’s book Limitless, a passage struck me:

Make sure you have a block of time set aside to get into flow. When conditions are right, it takes about 15 minutes to achieve a flow state and you don’t really hit your peak for closer to 45 minutes. Clearing out only half an hour or so isn’t going to allow you to accomplish much. Plan to set aside at least 90 minutes, and ideally a full 2 hours. (Jim Kwik, Limitless)

The idea of setting aside time for achieving Flow… ideally 2 hours. It’s the same 2-hour pattern! 

A light bulb went off in my head.”

“What was the insight?”

“As you know, I’m very interested in peak performance. Two things I’m focusing on are designing my life around the Flow state, and optimizing Energy. Flow is the most energy-efficient state we can achieve. 

The insight was to think in flow-blocks instead of work-blocks. 

I divided my WorkPlay [<link; short read] day into 2-hour flow-blocks. Each flow-block I dedicate to a different subject. 

Block 1: Writing (playing with ideas).

Block 2: Learning-block dedicated to Meta-Leaning and Peak Performance.

Block 3: Learning-block dedicated to Web Design (career-related project).

Block 4: Learning-block dedicated to something chosen at random among my many interests – I call it RND Learning.

Block 5: Variable – it can be Parkour, Improv, Connection, Dancing, Drawing, Systems Optimization, etc.

The structure is modular. It changes based on my present focus and circumstances outside my control.

I call this process parallel learning. This ties in with a fundamental principle of learning called Interleaving – the idea of varying and mixing up your learning to maximize engagement and retention.

The game is to achieve maximum efficiency during every block, and to consistently reach 5 blocks, like Walter Russell.”

Work Optimization 3

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“What does your daily work schedule look like?”

“I start with 6 pomodoros of deep-work, then I take an hour break. That’s the first deep-work block of the day.”

“Why 6 and not, say, 5?”

“I was aiming for 8, but I got too tired at the end of it, which I took as a sign that I’d overextended.”

“I like to make a distinction between goals and meta-goals

A goal has to do with what you’re trying to get done.
A meta-goal has to do with how you’re trying to get it done.

A meta-goal for instance might be to maximize productivity (work-efficiency). 
Another one might be to maximize energy conservation (energy-efficiency). 
Another one, to maximize productivity AND energy conservation. (work/energy-efficiency)

These are an application of the Quality macro-principle.

It’s important to focus on the meta-goals, not just the goals.

The pomodoro creates structure. That’s the deep-work unit, the fundamental building-block. However any structures you build with the pomodoro should be flexible and aligned with your meta-goals.

It doesn’t matter how many pomodoros you do in a row. What’s important is to assess your energy level after each and every one of them. If the energy level is high, go straight into another one. If not, take a longer break, or a nap. 

The beautiful thing about having a structure like the pomodoro in place is that you can use it to assess your energy-level. Energy-level correlates with willpower and decision-making quality. It takes willpower to interrupt yourself from what you’re doing and to keep your procrastination-impulses in check. 

Treat any lapses in willpower as a red-flag. Slow down, and create space to ask yourself:

What’s the best decision?

Beautiful Models: Time-Density

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the most important resource?”

“I’m thinking time, because it is non-renewable.”

“Would you say the more you have, the better?”


“What if you have a lot of time, but you don’t have the energy to make use of it?”

“Then, I guess, all that time is for nought.”

“The time you have is a potentiality, which is actualized by how you use it.

To actualize time, you need energy.

I love Robert Greene’s idea – which I’ve turned into a mental model – that there’s only two types of time: alive time and dead time.

You actualize time by turning it into alive time.

Dead time is wasted time.

Think of a leaking bucket. The potential time you have is the holding capacity of the bucket. The actual time you have, is however much water you have at any given time.

You also actualize time by increasing time-density.

“What is time-density?”

“It’s how efficiently you make use of it.

If you learn something in half the time compared to someone else (learning-density), then you can dedicate the time difference to other pursuits. In the same amount of time, you’ve done more things. This applies to not just learning, but also experiences (experiential-density), creative output (creative-density), and growth more generally (growth-density).

Over the course of a lifetime, increased time-density can amount to years.

With a high time-density you can live more than your years.

The converse is also true:

With a low time-density you can live less than your years.